Shannon Cooked 11 More Recipes from 'The SparkPeople Cookbook'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's note: Shannon is using The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight to teach herself to cook. She is blogging about her progress.
I am so amazed and humbled by all the terrific comments I have been receiving.  You all are so wonderful, supportive and kind.  Writing this blog series has been so inspiring and motivating.  Thank you all.

I have been cooking up a storm.  Since my last blog, I have prepared the Mushroom-Cheese Frittata (it was supposed to be the Tomato-Cheese Frittata until I realized I forgot to buy feta), Baby Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Toasted Almonds (I actually made it twice), Crunchy Chicken Salad,  Bluegrass Jambalaya, Chicken Breasts with Red-Wine Sauce, Quinoa-Flaxseed Pizza Dough, Multigrain Rolls, Lemon Berry Tartlets, Dark Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Rich Chocolate Glaze, Italian Herb Seasoning and finally the Creole Spice Blend.  I’ve spent more time in my kitchen lately than on the couch and that alone feels good. 

The Mushroom-Cheese Frittata (page 91) was a snap to cook and only took minutes to make.  The only issue I had in making this was my skillet.  I used my cast-iron frying pan so I could go from stove top to oven, but it was a little too big so the egg mixture was spread pretty thin.  As a result, I did not get a quite as nice of a puff as the frittata picture shows.  But I am happy to say that it did not affect the taste one bit.  To be honest, before I tried it, I thought it was going to be pretty plain.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The pepper really brought some zip and went very well with the leeks (which I had never had).  When I make this again I will either do a double batch in my frying pan or transfer it to a pie plate before putting in it the oven. 

The Baby Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Toasted Almonds (page 111) is my new favorite thing to eat, so much so that I have made it twice.  It was super simple and very quick to make.  I would eat it any time of year but could really imagine myself sitting on my patio on a hot summer’s day enjoying the cool crispness of the salad and the juicy sweetness of the ripe berries. 

The Crunchy Chicken Salad (page 127) is another salad that makes me want for the hot sun of summer and patio eating.  But this is no side salad or light lunch.  This is a serious meal.  I had a single portion over a cup of lettuce with a Multigrain Roll and was seriously full.  I cannot believe that the serving was only 202 calories.  In cooking the chicken, I did have a problem, I found out that the temperature on my oven is way off.  325 degrees F was more like 200, so when the chicken wasn’t anywhere near being done in 20 minutes I knew something was up.  We now have a thermometer in the oven to help me with proper temperature control as a new stove is not currently in the cards. 

The Multigrain Rolls (page 302) were a lot easier than I thought making buns would be.  Everything went as smoothly as the recipe said.  The bulk of the time was literally waiting, waiting, waiting for the dough to rise. 

I would love to say that my Bluegrass Jambalaya (page 169) turned out just like the picture; mine looked different but still tasted great.  This is the recipe that I had the most trouble with.  It says 1 hour to prep and cook and I believe that someone with more ability than I could do that.  However, for me it took about 2 hours.  There was a lot of vegetables to chop and I am not the handiest with a knife.  Anyone with experience would have been shuddering behind me.  But I am happy to say that I can still count to 10.  I made the mistake of using brown minute rice instead of regular brown rice.  It worked out fine it just was more like a soup, a really tasty soup. 

My husband has been such a good sport about all of this and even ate the jambalaya despite not liking shrimp.  I told him that I also had some fish recipes to try (another thing he hates).  He cringed but I know he will be a good sport and will eat it.  He has never had someone cook for him so well before, so he is not about to rock this boat.

Did you have some people over for the holidays and perhaps someone left behind a partial bottle of red wine?  This was the inspiration for me to try the Chicken Breasts with Red Wine Sauce (page 197).  Step by step, this was a very easy gourmet meal.  Everything was smooth sailing and the dish was delicious.  I served it over whole wheat penne, and my only complaint was that as left-overs it went a little watery, but it still tasted great though.

The Quinoa-Flaxseed Pizza Dough (page 271) was a joint effort by my husband and me.  He told me that he wanted to make pizza, so I piped up and said, "I’ll make the dough."  I don’t have a very large food processor so made it in a stand mixer with a dough hook, and it turned out great.  The rest of the pizza was not any of the delightful, healthy creations from The SparkPeople Cookbook pages. 

It was my one day where I can splurge a little.  Despite allowing myself the occasional splurge day I did however watch my toppings.  I put less pepperoni and cheese on my half and loaded up with peppers and mushrooms.  My only recommendation with this dough recipe is to let it settle for a few minutes before cutting into it.  We cut into right away and when the dough was hot it kind of tore, but as it had cooled a bit it cut quite nicely.  It was even great the next day, and it did not go soggy in the fridge.

Now onto the goodies: Lemon Berry Tartlets (page 351) and Dark Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Rich Chocolate Glaze (page 359).  The biggest problem I had with the tartlets was the phyllo dough.  I found that it dried out faster than I could get it cut and ready and with my fluctuating oven temperature (which I did not know yet), the dough got very crispy very fast.  The tarts themselves are wonderful if you like the kind of zing you get when eating something tart such as a Granny Smith apple.  They were tart tarts, but I like that sort of puckering zing. 

Now what can I say about the chocolate cake? I’ve got it--YUM!  I cannot believe that it was only 152 calories (not including berries).  I served it with raspberries as pictured and I swore I was eating a decadently sinful and expensive bistro dessert.  I just used a boxed angel food cake mix, which I did find a little dry, but if you’ve got a brand you like you may be able to avoid that.  The next time, and there will be a next time, I make this I may try making the angel food cake from scratch. 

The Italian Herb Seasoning (page 369) and the Creole Spice Blend (page 370) were a snap to mix out and smell amazing.  To be honest, I haven’t used them yet.  I had mixed some out for my friend with a garlic allergy for a Christmas present and decided to mix myself some too.  But I can’t wait to put them to use.  Maybe by next time, we’ll see.  On that note I have decided not to commit to making anything in specific this time and just go with what I am in the mood for.  As I am stocking more healthy ingredients in my pantry, this is easier to do now. 

I have learned some valuable lessons about my cooking abilities over the last two weeks.  If I go slow and steady and follow the recipes, I can cook some delicious and healthy meals, and if I can you can, too. 

What is your favorite recipe from The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight? What should I cook next?

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Hi, Shannon--
I've been cooking as much as possible from the Sparkpeople cookbook. My big breakthough came when we moved. The new house doesn't have much storage space, so I am only buying ingredients for the recipes I plan to make each week...and I plan the week on Sunday, with calendar in hand. My favorite so far is the salsa chicken (like everyone else), but I also love the lemon-roasted chicken, pad thai, and spicy fish tacos. Who ever thought I would say I love fish?! The turkey metaballs were a surprise hit. Coming from an Italian family, there's only one "right" way to make meatballs, but these were really good! The macaroni & cheese was not as popular with the kids as I anticipated, nor was the turkey & bean stew, but the adults loved both of them. I guess we have a bit more work to do before the kids are ready to say good-bye to (shudder!) the blue box. We loved the banana spice cake and blueberry flaxseed muffins, so with your enthusiastic suggestion, I'm going to try the multi-grain rolls next. May I make a suggestion to you? --make up all the dry spice blends; they're fabulous to have on hand! It's so much easier to attempt a recipe from the book when the spice blend is already done. I may even make them up as Christmas gifts...happy cooking! --Rie Report
You should try the maple glazed salmon. I don't remember which page and just loaned my cookbook to a friend. The only changes I would make are marinating it longer and reserving a little bit of that to drizzle or brush on towards the end of cooking. Good luck with the angel food cake from scratch - my mom swears the key is making sure you wash everything before you use it, even if it's already clean. You can wipe it with vinegar and rinse and that gets rid of any oils, too. Thanks for the inspiration! Report
You are doing so great with all these recipes...great pictures, too, mine always seem so dark. I think I may have to buy the cookbook, these recipes sound great. Report
Great job Shannon, loved your comments. I got the cookbook from the library and am enjoying reading it, may purchase it eventually but it's great to get your input. Mary Report
Shannon, you are getting to be quite the cook. I am really enjoying your blogs. Have you made the slow cooker chicken salsa yet? I t is very good. Report
Thank you for sharing your results. I've made a couple of things from the cookbook and they've both turned out really good. It's nice to read someone else's reviews on a couple of recipes I was thinking about trying (I may make the jambalaya next). Report
Thanks for your blog. I wasn't planning to buy the cookbook but after reading your blog I'm ready to try the recipes. Report
I love your review of the recipes. It's more like listening to a friend describe a recipe rather than a sales pitch. Looking forward to the next installment. Report
Everything looks yummy!!! Thanks for the great pictures! Report
It is interesting reading your blog! I haven't been able to try any of the recipes but reading your blog is motivating me to go ahead and give the recipes a try and see what happens! Report
My husband made turkey meatballs using the Italian Herb seasoning and they were delicious. They were especially good since I didn't make them! Report
Well done! I'm impressed! You sure attempted a lot, and it sounds like you've been mostly successful. Good job! Thanks for sharing; I really enjoyed reading your comments! Report
Way to go on all of the cooking! I love this cookbook - I have found some great new recipes. My favorite so far is the Banana Honey Cake - my family loved it too! And the Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Dill Sauce is another favorite. That sauce is fantastic - I use it instead of plain mustard or mayo on sandwiches too. Report
This blog has made me want the cookbook. I've been on the fence, because I have so many cookbooks (over 70 at least) but the praise this one keeps getting is a motivator to buy it. Well once pay day gets here. Report
After reading your comments, I am going to buy the cookbook. I enjoyed reading how you have tried the recipes. Looking forward to reading about your next recipes. Report
I really enjoyed reading your post! Not only what you wrote, but how you wrote it brought a smile to my face. Great job! Report
Thanks for posting--I love reading about cooking "adventures"! I've been cooking for decades but I'm also loving the Spark Cookbook--it's been a great way to learn some tricks to making healthier recipes and lots of really delicious dishes there! Report
Well done Shannon, you've done a great job with the cooking and with the blog too! It's wonderful to get "real person" reviews, they always tell you what you really need to know! Report
For someone who has never cooked before, you are going great guns, girl! Love the blog!
I will be trying out some more goodies today.
I really appreciate this post! I'm realizing that I really really need to learn how to cook, and this is definitely inspirational :) Report
The jambalaya is one of our new favorites! My husband has been a good sport about me trying out some of these recipes too. I'm really excited to ry the multi rolls because while I do like to cook, I've got to admit, breads intimidate me a little. But now I'm going to have to try the Dark Chocolate Angel Food Cake soon! Good luck with your next recipes! You're doing great and inspiring the rest of us! Report
o wow that flax seed pizza dough looks fabulous cant wait to try it i love adding flax seed to lots of things i cook i just love the nutty flavor it adds to stews, pancakes, waffles etc... but never imagined tryin it in pizza dough excellant idea!!!!! Report
Spinach strawberry salad looks great :) Report
Shannon, thanks for sharing your experience. I LOVE the corn-bean salad (page 121). I had it first with salsa in a corn tortilla and cooked fish (p 235); we used ocean perch & my hubby really didn't like the radiccio. This week I made it again as a stand-alone salad with diced (cooked) chicken breast. It would also be delicious mixed with tuna. Report
I just got my cookbook today and your blog has inspired me! I am not the best cook in the world so I am going to try the cake-using a box angel food cake. My husband sounds like yours-he is a great sport! Thanks for sharing! Report
Thank you for "sharing" your food with us. I used to cook more before I had my kids. They are 3 and 6 and I am going to buy little aprons for them and head back to the kitchen. They are such picky eaters, like most kids, but I have found that my son (the 6 year old) will try just about anything if he knows what is in it. I have the I just need to get to cooking. Lol!!!!

Daphne in Doral (Miami) Report
I love your blog. I love to cook, unfortunately my family is not as supportive in trying new things. My husband is strictly meat and potatoes and my son only likes stuff out of a box. But I may be inspired enough to attempt something that only I will eat, if I can jsut find the time. Report
I hate to cook. LOL Report
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